"What's WRONG with me??!" Sandra* screamed. Here was a woman who had just learned of her husband’s infidelity. She emanated sheer pain.
Sandra is only one of many people I try to help on a daily basis. Running a facility for clergy restoration has proven to be eye opening. In essence, our organization ministers to the ministers. Christian pastors strive to be righteous examples of godly leadership; unfortunately, this can mistakenly result in many believing there's no room for missteps. Frequently, striving for perfection can lead to nothing more than secrets, shame, and condemnation.
Such was the case with Sandra’s husband, a very high-profile, prominent pastor. He had called us a few days prior, saying he needed counsel and respite time. He said he was coming alone and very broken, however, we didn't yet know why. But God did. We prayed intensely for him and his situation while we waited for his arrival.
As he drove down the driveway, we noticed there were two people in the car. We could see the other tiny, slumped-over figure struggle to exit the passenger side. The pastor then got out and walked over to her, reaching around her side to assist her steps. Opening our door, one last "Help me help them, Jesus" left my lips.
As this fragile woman fell into my arms, her brokenness washed over me. The pastor simply introduced himself and added, "This is my wife. I wanted her to come too. Hope that's all right." She was crying uncontrollably now. I just held her and prayed.
On the drive over, he told her he had been having an affair for three years. She had no idea. She knew of no reason he'd had to be unfaithful in their 15-year marriage. They’d struggled to become pregnant — was that why? Wasn't she enough for him? Was it her?
God is in the restoration business
I knew at that time I should let her empty all the emotion she felt, no matter how long it took. Without the purging of Sandra’s deep hurt, healing and forgiveness could not begin.
Both husband and wife were willing to start there, and in that beginning effort, a new commitment was made. The hardest part in restoration is forgiving ourselves. The God we serve has already forgiven us when we asked for it.
Deuteronomy 30:3 says, “God, your God, will restore everything you lost; he'll have compassion on you. He'll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places you were scattered” (The Message). There’s hope for those of us who are shattered, who see no end to our suffering due to the consequences of sin — our own or others’. God promises to restore us. In his compassion, he will make us new.
Paul in Galatians 6:1 (ESV) states: "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted."
It is clear from his Word that God is our sole source of restoration and hope. But, his followers also have an essential part to play. In the next verse Paul says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
We are called to help and encourage each other, especially when mistakes are made. When someone stumbles, as Christians, we should seek their restoration and examine ourselves to make sure we, too, are not falling into temptation as well.
I can happily report that after three days and four nights of intense counseling and care, Sandra and her husband left more intact than when they arrived. Although their journey of trust and forgiveness was just beginning, in those few days, they experienced a transformation by his Spirit. And transformation leads to restoration.
*Name has been changed
If you or your spouse has been unfaithful in your marriage, you're not alone. One of our free and confidential mentors would love to pray with you and support you on your journey.